Friday, November 09, 2007

Resetting Reality

We’re getting a sense of how audience measurement is changing with Arbitron’s PPM (Portable People Meter) system.

If there is one lesson from the early results it is this – PPM is a new reality. Everyone who sees a PPM number immediately compares that number to its diary equivalent. That exercise is interesting for about five minutes and then it hits you that the diaries are ancient history.

The Cumes are the new Cumes. People are using more stations than shown in the diaries. Time Spent Listening per station is down. In some cases, way down. Daily listening patterns are different.

Public radio stations will not be immune to these differences in PPM and diary measurement. Some differences will be good. Others are going to sting at first.

Reality is being reset by PPM. Moreover, it is being adjusted daily. Arbitron is still working out a lot of details in the PPM system. Overall sample targets are being hit but several demographic groups are under represented. Arbitron is working to fix that. We may or may not see changes in PPM results based on those fixes.

The early reports on public radio from the PPM markets will not be the final word on what PPM is telling us about public radio. In some ways, we’re going back to the early-1980s when public radio was really just learning how to interpret audience data. The steepness of our learning curve with PPM will be largely affected by our ability to untether ourselves from the diaries.

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Anonymous man who's a pubradio fan said...

A significant X factor here is the cost of joining the PPM revolution, so to speak. With the impending (already happened?) demise of discounted Arbitron data via Radio Research Consortium, it's going to be tough for any but the biggest pubradio stations to justify the high costs of Arbitron info. Even worse, instead of simply not having the reports, if you don't join - you don't get a PPM Encoder, which means suddenly your station doesn't exist in the Arbitrons at all. Or have I misinterpreted things?

10:32 PM  

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